Feb 22

Mets Must Make Decision On Wheeler

Zack Wheeler gets the ball tomorrow against the Braves in their exhibition opener. He’ll get roughly 30 pitches or two innings.

It’s one of five appearances he’ll get this spring to prove his elbow is sound enough for him to make the Mets’ rotation. There’s also been talk about trying him out of the bullpen, or him staying back.

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

WHEELER: Rotation or bullpen? (AP)

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the possibility of him working out of the pen. I’m aware of the concern over the up-and-down nature of a reliever being an injury risk, just as the probability of breaking down after pitching on consecutive days.

The biggest chance for injury is if the Mets plan for him to start then switch direction and try him out of the pen. Or, do the opposite in working him in the bullpen during spring training then switching gears during the season.

This is what happened with Jenrry Mejia, who bounced around from the rotation to the pen and back again, only to blow out his arm.

It’s too simplistic to say, “Well, he’s a pitcher, just throw the damn ball.’’

There have been plenty of pitchers to go from the rotation to star in the bullpen. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz all made the transition and starred. Smoltz even went back to the rotation, but the key was it wasn’t done during the season.

I don’t know what the Mets will decide to do with Wheeler, but whatever they do, for this year at least they can’t deviate. Make the decision and stick with it, even if he opens the season in the minors. If they decide to pitch him out of the bullpen, then send him to the minors, he must pitch in relief at Las Vegas.

I’m intrigued by the idea of Wheeler pitching out of the pen. He has a live fastball – his out pitch – and from starting he has a secondary pitch. If he can control his command issues, he could be an effective reliever.

He gets into trouble facing a lineup the third time through when his pitch count rises so maybe being a closer would suit him.

Plus, are you all that convinced Jeurys Familia is a great closer. Both he and AJ Ramos will be free agents in 2019, so it would be beneficial to prepare for them leaving.

Unlike Sandy Alderson, I don’t see the Mets competing this year, so getting some answers would be a good thing.


Aug 15

Today’s Question: Why Not Try Harvey As Reliever?

Matt Harvey passed his audition for Single-A Brooklyn in his first rehab start, working one inning for the Cyclones. Undecided is where he’ll throw next.

Here’s an idea: Since the second rehab won’t be longer than two innings, why not have him pitch in the majors out of the bullpen?

HARVEY: Why not the pen? (AP)

HARVEY: Why not the pen? (AP)

Of course, he wants to start, but with the Mets’ bullpen simply awful – I can’t bear to watch Hansel Robles anymore – give Harvey a couple of innings out of the pen.

It could work if Harvey was told in advance what day he’ll pitch. That way:

He could keep his between starts routine and avoid the up-and-down regime of a reliever because knowing when he’ll pitch in a game he can warm up at his own pace.

Besides, he might like it, and if successful, this could lengthen his career. Dave Righetti, Dennis Eckersley and all made the transition, and the latter two ended up in the Hall of Fame.

Harvey’s career to date has been injury filled and disappointing. This could be a revival for him.

The season is lost anyway, so why not try it? It wouldn’t hurt. It is out-of-the-box thinking, and isn’t that what progressive organizations do?


Aug 15

Mets Bullpen Is Achilles Heel

There have been some really great closers – Mariano Rivera and Dennis Eckersley, to name two – but what complemented them was the depth of their bullpens. Both the Yankees and Athletics were championship deep.

The Mets have faith in Jeurys Familia as their closer and Tyler Clippard in a set-up role. However, as evidenced by Bobby Parnell Friday night and future ex-Met Jenrry Mejia, depth is a problem.

PARNELL: Reliability a concern. (AP)

PARNELL: Reliability a concern. (AP)

For the most part, I’ve liked what Hansel Robles has done. At one time Carlos Torres was considered reliable. Not anymore. And, Sean Gilmartin and Eric O’Flaherty aren’t quite a comforting cup of hot cocoa on a winter’s night.

Familia has had implosion moments and it must be remembered this is the first time he will pitch under playoff-type pressure.

The bullpen has an Achilles Heel quality about it, so if GM Sandy Alderson has a chance to snag somebody off the waiver-wire scrap heap he would be wise to do so. Waiting for Jerry Blevins to return isn’t a sound strategy.

The Mets have a nice lead, but one capable of evaporating with a bad week by the bullpen. You might recall September of 2007.

The bullpen is a significant question moving forward. The Mets would be wise to act now rather than lament later.


Nov 15

Cabrera, Trout And Posey Top MVP Candidates


The Major League postseason awards conclude today with the granddaddy of them all – the Most Valuable Player Awards.

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey and Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera competing against the Angels’ Mike Trout are considered the frontrunners. Throw a blanket over Cabrera and Trout in the American League.

Let’s look at the American League race first because of the potential closeness of the voting.

The award has been shared before, the National League in 1979 between the Cardinals’ Keith Hernandez and the Pirates’ Willie Stargell. It is possible to have co-winners in these awards because they are done on a point system: x number of points for first place, y number of points for second place and so on.

Clearly, Trout had a MVP season, especially impressive had he not missed the first month of the season. Had he played a full season, it is possible he might have prevented Cabrera from winning the Triple Crown, one of baseball’s rarest achievements last done in 1967 by Carl Yastrzemski.

There is no criteria set by the Baseball Writers Association of America, which is why relief pitchers have won (Rollie Fingers, 1981), Willie Hernandez (1984) and Dennis Eckersley (1992). Also, players from teams with losing records (Cal Ripken, 1991) and Ernie Banks (1958-59) have been honored, as well as starting pitchers (Justin Verlander, 2011), Denny McLain and Bob Gibson (1968), and Sandy Koufax (1963).

The voting for all postseason awards must be in on the last day of the regular season, so playoff performances are not counted. However, traditionally, many of the winners – if not most – come from teams in the postseason.

The arguments for Cabrera and Trout are equally compelling, if not convincing.

Cabrera won the Triple Crown which is rare and impressive, and led the American League in OPS; his team made the playoffs and he moved to a different position. All strong arguments for Cabrera.

However, Trout led the majors in runs scored – 20 more than Cabrera; accomplished what he did in fewer games; and his team had a better record than Cabrera’s; and he might have saved at least 20 more runs with his defense. All strong arguments for Trout.

I have no complaint for either, but if forced to choose between the two I would take Cabrera because of the Triple Crown. It is such a rare achievement I can’t overlook.

The National League is easy for me. The best players are Posey, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, last year’s winner, St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.

Beltran and Molina will take votes from each other; McCutchen will be penalized by the Pirates’ late season collapse; and Braun will suffer from last year’s drug test controversy.

Posey, coming off a serious injury, hit .336 with over 100 RBI, and caught one of the game’s best staffs.

Nov 18

Could Pelfrey make it out of the bullpen?

General manager Sandy Alderson earmarked getting a closer and improving the bullpen as his top priorities. Given that, why not consider erratic starter Mike Pelfrey in the closer role?

PELFREY: Could a change of roles erase that perplexed look from his face?

A switch in roles proved to be career boosts for Dave Righetti and Dennis Eckersley, and it could be worth exploring for Pelfrey, who has not developed into the consistent starter the Mets hoped.

The main thing that has derailed Pelfrey as a starter – losing focus – could be sharpened coming out of the pen because of the shortness of the appearance. Having the game on the line and only one inning to work with could be the vehicle that hones his concentration.

Pelfrey can cruise for four innings, then unravel in the fifth. As a closer, theoretically he would face only three hitters with the game in the balance. It is worth finding out if such pressure could jumpstart him.

Will it work? I don’t know, but it is something to consider because his starting career has been spotty with little signs of him developing into a consistent winner. Seriously, after watching Pelfrey so far in his career, who is convinced he’ll be a late bloomer? At 50-54 lifetime, it is time to ask what’s not working for the guy.

Reportedly, the Mets already talked to teams about him, an indication of their frustration and unhappiness. If you’re contemplating that, why not give this a shot first?

Yes, it would create a void in the rotation, but don’t you think they could easily pick up another starter with Pelfrey’s numbers, if not better? What do they have to lose?